Camping, parks could cost more; hybrid fees to increase

Todd Richmond
Associated Press

MADISON (AP) - Campers and hikers might have to dig a little deeper to get into their favorite state parks in 2018. And if they're packing their tents and boots into a hybrid vehicle they'll have to pay even more.

Kate Mitchell, 8, left, cools off along the shores of Lake Winnebago with her friends Lian Lewis, 8, and Ben Lewis, 13,  at High Cliff Park in Sherwood, WI.

Provisions in the Republican state budget that go into effect Monday, Jan. 1, allow Department of Natural Resources Secretary Dan Meyer to raise vehicle entry fees at state parks of his choosing by as much as $5 per day for both Wisconsin residents and non-residents.

Other budget changes that go into effect on New Year's Day allow Meyer to begin raising camping fees at sites of his choosing by as much as $15 per night for residents and $16 per night for out-of-staters.

DNR spokesman Jim Dick said this week that Meyer and agency officials were still finalizing fee changes and hoped to have something ready by "early in the new year." DNR officials will present the new fees to the agency's board as an informational item but can implement them without the panel's approval, he said.

Campers who want electricity at Devil's Lake, High Cliff, Kohler-Andrae, Peninsula and Willow River state parks will have to pay an extra $15 under budget language that goes into effect on Monday as well. That's up from the standard $10 electricity surcharge the DNR imposes at other campgrounds and parks.

Hybrid and electric vehicle owners, meanwhile, will have to grapple with higher registration fees in 2018. The budget calls for imposing a $75 surcharge on hybrid registrations and a $100 surcharge on electric vehicle registrations beginning Monday. That's on top of the standard $75 passenger vehicle registration fees.

The surcharges are part of Republican lawmakers' plan to fund road work over the next biennium as revenue from the state's gas tax continues to dwindle. The budget also calls for borrowing an additional $400 million and delaying projects to make ends meet.

Other new laws that go into effect Monday include:

  • A budget provision that restricts school districts from holding referendums on exceeding revenue limits more than twice a year. Districts will have to schedule such elections on state primary or general election dates.
  • A budget provision that ends health insurance coverage and other benefits for government employees' domestic partners. The budget also closes off the state's same-sex domestic partner registry, which grants domestic partners a host of legal rights similar to marriage, to new registrants on April 1.
  • Statutes that require farmers who plant at least 5 acres of potatoes to use seeds certified by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.